More 2012 in Review

This has been A Year. There’s really no other way to describe it. It was, by far, the best year of my life to date, and there’s a part of me that doubts that there will ever be another year quite as good. The events that occurred, and the timing of those events, was so outstanding that all I can do is sit back and thank God for the way He arranged this year of celebrations for my family!

January was by far the quietest month of the year. We celebrated our 100th day of school, and Ladybug joined in, as she unofficially started kindergarten during that month. We finished preparing our home for Chickadee’s arrival. I was sad to see the end of One Life to Live, although, if it had to end, it certainly went the right way. We also re-subscribed to cable TV, so I spent a lot of my pregnancy-induced sleepless nights catching up on What Not to Wear!

In February, things started to get busy. Ryan rejoined the American Kantorei for the Bach at the Sem series, and we all enjoyed attending his concerts. I got to see Chickadee holding onto her umbilical cord during an ultrasound…it should come as no surprise, then, that she loves holding onto my hair now! We also made sure she’d be well-equipped for her first Opening Day and Cardinals game. Turkey had two teeth pulled, and hardly even noticed it happening. Ladybug picked out new animal print glasses. We had a fun field trip, started a new Lenten tradition, and celebrated Leap Day. Above all, we spent all of February excited knowing that Chickadee would be arriving the next month!

Without a doubt, March was the craziest, most exciting month of the year. The highlight was, of course, the birth of our little Chickadee. A few other things happened, too, though. We finally got a Dunkin’ Donuts, which was very exciting for me. We had fun celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and even got to help Moose make a Leprechaun trap for school. I spent a lot of time baking, even though I couldn’t indulge in eating many of my creations due to gestational diabetes. Turkey turned nine. The children got to meet their new sister, and we brought her home!

April was almost as busy as March. Turkey and Bunny were confirmed on Palm Sunday, the same day Chickadee was baptized into God’s family. That was one of the most amazing, emotional days of my life. We celebrated Easter a week later. We had our traditional Opening Day food fest at home, and less than a week later, took Chickadee to her first Cardinals game. Much to Bunny’s delight, an American Girl store opened in St. Louis. We found that last year’s bird’s nest was once again in use. We also had the interesting experience of oven shopping.

Things remained busy in May. Chickadee started smiling at us–so cute! Our new oven was delivered. I got a new pair of glasses for the first time in over five years, and I must have been inspired by Ladybug, because they, too, have an animal print. The next generation of baby birds hatchedLadybug turned five. Ryan and I got to go to the Cardinals game (along with Chickadee), where Tony LaRussa’s number was retired. The following day, Ryan and I (and Chickadee, again), went to the Science Center to see Star Trek: The Exhibition. Moose graduated from kindergarten. We not only went to Art on the Square, but actually bought something for the first time ever. We spent an afternoon at Grant’s Farm, one of our very favorite places to go. Ryan and Ladybug went to a Cardinals game, just the two of them, and got to meet Fredbird and get autographs from two players. We celebrated the birthday of the church on Pentecost  Turkey started his third season of parks and rec baseball, and loved every minute of it.

Life finally slowed down a bit in June (but only a bit!). We celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee from afar. As part of our celebration, we had our first tea party of the year. This was one of my favorite non-family related parts of the year, learning all about the Queen and her reign. Turkey and Bunny finished third grade. The summer really started to heat up, making everybody miserable.

July brought an end to the slower pace we enjoyed in June. I spent my first-ever day at the spa, and hope I can go back again sometime. We celebrated the Fourth of July in our typical fashion, but sans fireworks, thanks to a ban on them due to excessive heat and drought. Turkey had his last baseball game of the summer. Bunny turned eight, and we enjoyed tea party number two of the year to celebrate. Chickadee attended her first-ever VBS at our church, along with the rest of the family, of course. She also gave up being swaddled at bedtime, which was a little bittersweet. We enjoyed the beginning of the London Olympics, which included tea party number three, and special lessons in school.

At the beginning of August, we managed to tear ourselves away from the Olympics long enough to go to Build a Bear day at Busch Stadium, which also included a walk along the warning track. It was also a “turn back the clock” night…I loved the throwback uniforms and high socks! We had our own family Olympics, in which “Team Markel” won. We got rid of cable TV–again. I got ready for the start of our fifth year of homeschooling by rearranging the school room–again. Moose started first grade, Ladybug officially started kindergarten, and Turkey and Bunny began fourth grade. We went apple picking and got 12 pounds of apples. Chickadee was our little tagalong in school, and constantly kept the whole family amused with her antics.

At the beginning of September, I worked on creating a logo for our school, with help from the children. We were quite happy with the results. I discovered that one of my favorite books ever had finally been reprinted. Chickadee started crawling. We saw the Thunderbirds perform at the Scott Air Force Base air show. We took in another baseball game, and had a kind usher take the best picture of the seven of us to that date. Chickadee reluctantly started eating solid foods. We had fun making handprint angels on Michaelmas.

We spent the month of October learning about the Reformation and enjoying the beautiful fall colors. We had our annual trip to the pumpkin patch, where we picked over 40 pounds of pumpkins. Moose lost three top teeth…eating became a very interesting activity for him! Ryan and I enjoyed the “Kozmania” that overtook Cardinal Nation, especially since we had seen his very-first major league at-bat the year before. I finally found a hat to wear to church. We watched Felix Baumgartner’s incredible, insane skydive from practically outer-space, some of us with morbid curiosity.

In November, Chickadee figured out how to pull herself up to a standing position. Moose turned seven. I had my best-ever game in Bookworm, and promptly stopped playing so I could go out on top. We started Thanksgiving school, and a “Thankful Tree.” We had a nice Thanksgiving…it was especially fun to share Chickadee’s first Thanksgiving with her! We went to our town’s tree lighting, and then went back downtown on a nicer day to look at all of the gingerbread houses. I rearranged our schoolroom–yet again. I think it will stay this way for quite a while! We started our Christmas celebrations a little early by taking the children to their first Boar’s Head Festival, in preparation for our “Christmas in England” theme in school this year.

December brought our favorite time of the year…the Advent and Christmas seasons! Many of our favorite activities take place in December…Christmas on the Hill, Tuba Christmas, and going to St. Charles for the Christmas Traditions festival. In school, we continued making banners for the church year, and learned about Christmas throughout England’s history, which included reading some great books, such as A Christmas Carol. We had a Christmas tea party (number four for the year!), and an English Christmas dinner to accompany our lessons. It was great fun being so very British this whole year! We added readings for the Great “O” Antiphons to our Advent traditions. We spent a lot of time baking, decorating, and delivering cookies and other treats, and basically kept busy right up until Christmas. It was especially fun to get to celebrate a first Christmas again! We even had a white Christmas, although a few days late…but it was still during the season of Christmas, so it counts! I did a lot of work on my blog this month, too, adding pages for liturgical year things such as feasts, festivals, and commemorations, the Jesse Tree, the Great “O” Antiphons, and the Jesus Tree, that are important to our family.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 holds for our family…I know that there will be lots more holidays and celebrations to look forward to sharing together. I pray that God blesses all of your families as greatly as He has blessed mine!

Quote of the Day

In accordance with tradition, I declare the Games of the 30th Olympiad closed, and I call upon the youth of the world to assemble four years from now in Rio de Janeiro to celebrate the Games of the 31st Olympiad. From the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics

Olympics School–Day Thirteen

Like all good things, today the Olympics had to come to an end. We had to sneak in one last day of Olympics school before it was all over!

We started by making a fun snack/craft. Just as we started Olympics school with a torch craft, today we ended with one, to symbolize the passing of the torch to the next Olympic city, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I thought an edible craft would be a fun change, so we dipped pretzel rods in melted white chocolate and sprinkled with yellow sugar. (I considered red and/or orange, as well–orange was my first choice, but I couldn’t find that at Wal-Mart, so yellow it was!). Chocolate covered pretzels are always delicious, and Olympic-themed ones even more so!

Turkey and Bunny had one last written assignment–a short report on what they’ve learned about England. They covered things such as cities, popular foods, common plants and animals, and native dress (basically, fancy hats!). It was fun to see which elements of British culture really stuck with them…and if we had had a landmark section in the report, they may never have finished it, they’ve enjoyed learning about all of the famous places in England so much!

We also did “medal” math one last time. In addition to adding up the medals on our chart, we compared the total medals of each country this year to their medal totals in the Beijing Olympics, and tracked their gains and losses. We also added up all of the medals in the Commonwealth Realms, and decided that the Queen, as head of the Commonwealth, wins the Olympics!

And, since “Bolting” was so much fun, we tried doing the “Mobot,” too!

Prior to the Closing Ceremonies, we had an English meal for dinner…sausage rolls for the main course…

and a traditional English trifle for dessert!

I’m sad to see our “London Summer” come to an end…between the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, we’ve had so much British fun! Maybe we’ll just have to have an English Christmas…

Today’s Passport Stamps: English Cuisine and Citius-Altius-Fortius

Olympics School–Day Twelve

We haven’t done any schoolwork since Monday, because we’ve been too busy watching the Olympics to do anything else. But since the Olympics are starting to wind down (and NBC has reduced their Olympic coverage in the afternoon), we had a day of review, plus one more fun craft.

We started by looking through DK Eyewitness: Olympics. The children have already looked through this book (several times), since we started Olympics School, but since it gives such a good overview of everything related to the Olympics, both ancient and modern, it provided an excellent way to review what we’ve learned. I think we even managed to pick up a new fact or two!

We also revisited the London 2012 pictograms. Now that we’re more familiar with some of the more obscure sports, it was fun to go through the list, and guess what they all were again. After we did that, I had the children each draw six pictograms of their own on index cards I had cut in half. It was easy to tell what their favorite events were based on which sports they chose to portray. They did a really good job–it was easy to tell which sports they were representing in their pictograms, and that was the whole point of the activity, so it was a success!

We also did one last craft. We’ve been watching rhythmic gymnastics the last two days, and it made me remember how much I always wanted one of those ribbons when I was a little girl. I figured it couldn’t be too hard to come up with something similar, and after a quick trip to Hobby Lobby, we were ready to get to work. I got some 18 inch dowel rods, probably a little thicker than necessary, but I wanted them to have a good surface for decorating. After the children used markers to personalize the sticks, I attached some curling ribbon (not as wide as I would have preferred–I wanted to get the standard two-inch ribbon like the gymnasts actually use, but it was the prettiest ribbon I could find that didn’t have wired edges, which wouldn’t have worked), to each, using a thinner piece of ribbon and a clear hair elastic. Super easy, and the children have enjoyed twirling their ribbons and doing tricks…and they were even nice enough to let me have a turn!

I have a few activities left for Sunday and the Closing Ceremonies, and then, like the Olympics, our Olympics School will officially come to an end, and we’ll take a week off before the “official” first day of the new school year!

Today’s Passport Stamps: Field Hockey Pictogram and Ribbon

Olympics School–Day Eleven–Family Olympics

Today we held our quadrennial Markel Family Olympics. We went over to the local junior high school, where we could make use of basketball goals and a soccer field. The children competed in nine different events. Turkey was the all-around champion, but in the end, all of Team Markel was victorious!


Soccer Kicks:

Spoon Race:


Broad Jump:

“Shot Put”:


Crab-Walk Race:


The Medal Ceremony:

Turkey and Bunny also had one written assignment today–a report on an Olympic sport. Bunny had no problem deciding which sport she was going to write about…there was no choice but gymnastics. Turkey had a more difficult time, as he’s found out that there are a lot of interesting sports out there about which he previously didn’t know, like fencing and water polo. In the end, however, he chose to write about swimming, in large part due to the popularity of Michael Phelps.

Today’s Passport Stamp: Olympic Venue Four–The Olympic Experience in Your School

Olympics School–Day Ten

Today we finished reading Hour of the Olympics and its companion “Fact Tracker.” After we were done, we then talked about the reinvention of the Olympics in modern times…the who, when, and what of the games. This served as a good review of a lot of the things we’ve learned during the last two weeks, and even introduced a few new facts.

Since we learned all about London yesterday, and spent a lot of time looking at a map of London, today we went back to the geography of the United Kingdom. I had the children color the different parts of the Kingdom on a map I had printed. It was fun to look at how the different parts of Great Britain relate to each other, especially since we’ve some events in the outlying areas, such as football in Cardiff.

We also made medals for our family Olympics, which we’ll be holding on Monday. Four years ago, we made glitter medals, so this time, I decided to do something different (and more permanent). We made salt dough medals, which we were able to decorate and paint, and after the Olympics, we will also be able to keep them as ornaments for the Christmas tree. I love a dual-purpose craft! The dough was easy to make: 1 cup salt, 1 cup flour, and 3/4 cup water mixed together and kneaded until a dough forms…you could even throw some glitter in the dough if you desire. Roll it out, cut with biscuit cutters, make a hole with a straw for the cord, and decorate. We used toothpicks to etch designs, but you could also press designs into them, or leave them plain. Then, bake at 210 degrees for a few hours, until dry. Finish up with paint…we did all of ours in gold; of course you could also do silver and bronze. If you chose not to decorate before baking, you could decorate with paints at this point.

Today’s Passport Stamp: Olympic Medal

Olympics School–Day Nine

Today we planned a trip to London. A few days ago, I gave Turkey and Bunny an Eyewitness Travel Guide to London, and told them to look through it, and choose places that they’d like to visit. Today, we got out a map of London (included in the travel guide), and marked the different places they had chosen, plus a few I threw in for myself.

It was interesting to see what places they wanted to visit. Turkey was particularly interested in the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Chinatown, while Bunny was very focused on seeing many of the different gardens and parks in London, as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum. Of course, we all wanted to see Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard, the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels, the Tower Bridge, the Museum of London, and the National Gallery. I threw in Harrods, too, because if I’m going to London, I’m going to see their big, fancy department store! We also thought a day trip to see Windsor Castle would be a must, and maybe a visit to Hampton Court Palace, too.

After planning our trip, I gave Turkey and Bunny the task of writing a story about their imagined trip. Bunny decided to do one better, and write a letter home from London. I’m both embarrassed that I didn’t think of that myself, because it’s a fantastic idea, and proud of Bunny for coming up with it, because it was very creative of her. I was also very impressed with her letter, so I’ll share it:

Dear Family,
I have seen much in London. Mother, I love the Tower of London. The Crown Jewels are sooo beautiful! The crowns there were lovely! Sigh. I wish you could see them too, those jewels and crowns. Even though I remain in London, I still love you. Father, brothers, and sisters, you are all very dear to me.
Your Faithful and Loving Daughter,

In keeping with our London theme, we colored some London pictures (including a double-decker bus), and we also read Katie in London. I highly recommend this book for introducing children to some of London’s famous landmarks. I bought this book sight unseen, as our library didn’t have it, and there wasn’t even a preview available on Amazon. I’m really glad I did, though…in addition to being educational, it’s a very cute story, and one I know we’ll be reading again and again!

Today’s Passport Stamp: “London Air”

Olympics School–Day Eight

Today we turned our attention to Ancient Greece and the Olympics, especially as we continued to read Hour of the Olympics and the companion “Fact Tracker.” After learning some more about the ancient games, what contests were held, and who participated, Turkey and Bunny created Venn diagrams to show the similarities and differences between the Ancient and Modern Olympic games. We were pretty surprised at how many similarities there are, right down to both having parades at an Opening Ceremonies (even if the parades were a little different).

To celebrate the spirit of the Ancient Olympics, the children made their own “olive leaf” crowns. This was a super easy craft…I had leaf patterns in a book, but they’re really not necessary. The children got creative with using several different shades of green to decorate their wreaths.

We also did a little Olympic math today. Now that there are a decent number of medals on our medal chart, I had Turkey and Bunny add up the gold, silver, and bronze medals, and then add those totals as well. We also noted the difference between total gold, silver, and bronze, (interestingly, the countries we chose have more gold medals in total than anything else). As it’s still early in the games, this was a fairly easy task for Turkey and Bunny, but it was good practice in addition and subtraction, and allowed me to make sure their basic math skills haven’t gotten rusty over the summer. We’ll continue to repeat this exercise as the medal count grows…I’m curious to see how the ratios of gold, silver, and bronze pan out in the end!

Today’s Passport Stamp: The Parthenon

Olympics School–Day Seven

Today was another big day in Olympics school! The main event was a tea party. The purpose of this was two-fold: to enjoy an aspect of English culture; and to practice our table manners. I’ve discovered that the children actually have very nice table manners in this type of situation…I just can’t figure out why they don’t use them all the time!

We also read the first few chapters of Hour of the Olympics. This is a cute book (one in the “Magic Tree House” series), which sees the two main characters, Jack and Annie, going back to Ancient Greece during the original Olympics in search of a book. Along the way, they meet Plato, the wise man they were tasked to find.

The children wanted me to keep reading Jack and Annie’s story until it was done. I wanted to make sure we also had time to read from the Magic Tree House Ancient Greece and the Olympics Fact Tracker, (a companion to the above book) as well, though, so we’re splitting both books up over the course of three days.

To finish up our third Olympic venue, which focuses on athletes and sports, Turkey and Bunny had the task of researching an Olympic athlete. Not surprisingly, Turkey chose Michael Phelps:

Also not surprisingly, Bunny picked Jordyn Wieber:

Today’s Passport Stamps: Teapot and Olympic Venue Three–The Olympic Athlete and Olympic Sports